When Scott Snyder kicks off the second half of American Vampire in March, the story will switch gears to a break-neck pace as it builds toward the series climax.
March's release of American Vampire: Second Cycle #1 comes more than a year since the ongoing series took a hiatus after issue #34, released in January 2013. The break gave Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque time to work on other projects.
At the time, Snyder said the series had reached its halfway point, indicating that there were several years left for the title. But Snyder is promising that things will move swiftly from here on out — and the introduction of the new villain, the Gray Trader, will begin to accelerate the series toward its conclusion.
Although Snyder is one of the most successful current writers at DC Comics — from his best-selling work on Batman to Superman Unchained — American Vampire launched the writer's comic book career. Featuring Albuquerque's art since the series launch, American Vampire explores the concept that vampire DNA can evolve into new species — from the traditional European kind that stay out of the sun, to the more modern American vampires who thrive on sunlight.
As the series enters its Second Cycle, Newsarama talked to Snyder to find out more about what's coming in the series as it heads toward the end — and what readers can expect from the "Gray Trader."
Newsarama: Scott, after that huge finale we saw last year, American Vampire returns in March. I assume you're jumping forward a number of years when we pick up the story in American Vampire: Second Cycle #1?
Scott Snyder: Yeah, we've moved forward. We really wanted to make it feel like the break [in the comic's shipping schedule] was a break for our characters as well. That was always the plan, that we would take a break somewhere around the middle, and then try to make our biggest time jump yet, where we would jump about 10 years.
We land in about 1967. For us, it's really been awhile since we've caught up with Pearl and Skinner and Felicia and Calvin and Gus and all the characters that have become part of the big roster of the series.
We really wanted to open in a way that would give you a new status for each of them.
Nrama: Has their status changed significantly?
Snyder: Yeah, they're in a very, very different place than where we left them — emotionally, physically, and in terms of the mission they see themselves as a part of.
Pearl has a completely different purpose in life, which I'm really excited about.
And Skinner does too. You got a hint of his new mission in the anthology we did. I did a short story for that with Rafael, where you got a quick peek at Skinner. He's been working his way through the borderlands with Mexico in the '60s, and he's become a notorious outlaw down there. And he does what he does for the thrill of it. So he's one of the most dangerous figures among, sort of, the nascent cartels at that time.
They know him as this bandit who strikes from the hills. They don't know where his hideout is, or anything like that. So he's almost recreating the Old West for himself, as best he can.
So it's a lot of fun.
But I think, overall, the characters have gone back to core. This first arc centers mostly on Skinner and Pearl. And the idea is that each of the characters have turned home, to who they were before they met each other.
And yet, at the same time, there's something very wrong with where they are now. And something's coming that won't allow them to live in this kind of "retreat" that they've created for themselves.
Nrama: That sounds like a new threat. Is this just a temporary threat? Or is this something that ties to the very end of the series?
Snyder: Well, the second half [of this arc] really brings us into what I'd call the beginning of the climactic material we've been working toward in the series since issue #1.
The bad guys in this issue, and in this arc, will be the beginning of the bad guy who's going to be centered from here until the very end of the series.
So yeah, this is the beginning of the huge machinations of the whole series, from here forward, toward the finale we've been thinking of.
Nrama: Wait, how long until the end of American Vampire?
Snyder: We still have, like, a good 30 issues. It's not like this is the climactic part now.
But I think of it, like… you know, I really admired Breaking Bad's last season because it was so economical and so break-neck in its pacing, and yet at the same time, giving great character moments for all of the protagonists. That's kind of our goal here, is to move more swiftly than we did in the first half of the series. But at the same time, we intend to give readers a lot of character work between them and bring everything to a head, and a crescendo.
Nrama: So much of the first part of the series was about building this world, introducing a lot of new characters and concepts. Does the second half of the series back away from that a bit?
Snyder: You're definitely going to see some new characters introduced. This villain is basically new. We mentioned him in issue #34 — the last issue before we took our hiatus. So there are hints of who he is, and the mythology behind him there. He's someone who's scarier than anyone we've introduced so far, and more powerful also.
But also, at the same time, there will also be new members of the VMS, because they're in shambles.
So we will introduce new characters.
But yeah, part of the idea is that the first half of the series was so much about expanding the world of American Vampire and giving you a sense of the scope, both historically and in the present — how big we wanted it to feel, and how it stretched across decades and a cast of dozens of characters. And this isn't necessarily a half where we're not going to introduce new characters, but the characters that are introduced are all in service of bringing all the pieces that we've laid on the board closer together.
So it's all about everyone from Dracula to the Ancients, to Pearl and Skinner, and Gus and Calvin and all those characters coming crashing toward one another.
Nrama: Wait, in issue #34, we didn't hear an actual name, did we?
Snyder: They mentioned someone named "The Gray Trader" at one point.
Nrama: Ah yes. So what can you tell us about this new villain, The Gray Trader?
Snyder: Not to give too much away… but really, this part of American Vampire focuses heavily on our concept of who the original monster is, who the original, first monster is who started it all.
Nrama: The beginning of all the bloodlines.
Snyder: Yeah, and tying that to different mythologies as well, of ancient evil and the devil and hell and all kinds of figures from folklore that, I think, have that connotation of being the "origin of evil." The origin of abomination and the beast.
Nrama: Sounds like a lot of research into mythology?
Snyder: Yeah, we've had a lot of fun doing research into American folklore about the devil and demons and the devil at the crossroads.
The devil figures big in a lot of the music that I really love, like the early country and blues that is sort of my "old man iTunes library." [Laughs.]
But at the same time, we wanted to do our interpretation of that figure, and make something scientific and something that would really scare all of the species that we've created so far.
Nrama: You said the characters come "crashing" together. Does that mean this is all building toward a conflict? Is it between, like, different factions of vampires?
Snyder: We're gearing up for a really, really big conflict between not just the Americans and the Carpathians, but the Americans, the Carpathians, the Ancients, and something even older and scarier.